It’s not often that the word unusual gets attached to the Oscars, one of the most staid and predictable nights of the year, as sober as the Golden Globes is drunk. But after an unusual year, the awards season followed suit, extended by two months, films dropping in and out of the race and some that might otherwise have been ignored instead taking centre stage.
But when the night finally arrived, things had settled back into a rhythm, so much so that looking back to the last time we made recklessly early predictions, seven out of 10 ended up receiving a nod with two of them winning (the other three were from films that were taken off the schedule).
So, with some vague sense of confidence, here goes our look ahead to next year:
After graduating from a best supporting actor nomination for BlacKkKlansman to best actor for Marriage Story just a year later, the next 12 months could well push Adam Driver closer to a win with three awards-friendly films on the way. The two most likely to appeal to the Academy (his Cannes-premiering Sparks musical Annette, co-starring Marion Cotillard, could be a little too arthouse for voters) both come from Ridley Scott and both tell violent true stories from Europe, albeit from vastly different time periods and with vastly different characters at their center.
The first, The Last Duel, supposed to be part of the most recent Oscars season before being pushed back, tells the story of best friends in 14th century France who go to war after one is accused of raping the other’s wife. It’s delicate territory but the screenplay, which reunites Oscar-winners Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (the latter playing the lead), also includes input from one of the most empathetic female screenwriters working today, Nicole Holofcener, last nominated for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a strange choice given her history of small-scale everyday comedies but one that implies some necessary sensitivity.
At the other end of the scale is his doomed character in the Lady Gaga-led drama House of Gucci about a murderous plot within the Italian fashion house that with its starry cast and juicy fact-based premise could also ignite.
BRIAN TYREE HENRY
A bit of a wild card here since very little is known about the film he’s starring in but Brian Tyree Henry is someone who’s felt primed for Academy attention for a number of years now.
The Yale-trained actor is best known for his small screen role in Atlanta, a performance that won him an Emmy nomination (he scored a second for a guest spot on This is Us), but has garnered most acclaim for his stage work, including a Tony nomination for Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero.
He was in the Oscars conversation for his supporting role in 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk despite starring in just one scene (his crushing monologue was proof that he’s set for bigger things) and while his upcoming appearance in Joe Wright’s Cyrano might be too small for a nom, he’s also starring alongside Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence in PTSD drama Red, White and Water. It’s something of an unknown quantity but it’s being released by A24 (who have had awards success with Moonlight, Lady Bird and, most recently, Minari) and in telling the story of a soldier returning from Afghanistan with a brain injury yet from young, well-respected theater director Lila Neugebauer, it has the potential to deal with a serious issue yet from an intriguing, un-gung-ho viewpoint.
During 2020’s traditional in-person Sundance film festival, stacked with bigger movies, we’d seen three of the best picture nominees, a major result even on a normal year but with it all stripped back to a modest virtual line-up this time around, it was harder to predict many nominees-in-waiting.
The most likely of which would appear to be Ruth Negga, who ever since she nabbed a nod for best actress for her indelible performance in Loving, has been somewhat quiet on the big screen (just a small role in Ad Astra to speak of). While small screen work (she’s starred in four seasons of Preacher) and a major role as Hamlet on stage have kept her busy, it could be a supporting turn in Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing that thrusts her back into the spotlight. It’s a vibrant, alluring performance that steals the film away from her co-stars and a thrilling reminder of Negga’s magnetic yet underused presence.
We’re now far past the rather patronizing astonishment that yes an actor from a major teen franchise could spend most of her career since starring in well-respected indies but while Kristen Stewart has accumulated a great deal of acclaim post-Twilight, she’s yet to make the leap from critics circle prizes to the Oscars. If anything were to change that it would be Spencer, the much-anticipated new drama that sees her taking on the role of Princess Diana, teased already in a set of promising new images. The accent remains a concern for anyone who’s seen Snow White and the Huntsmen (Stewart herself referred to it as “intimidating as all hell”) but with Pablo Larrain at the helm, who previously led Natalie Portman to a nomination for Jackie before producing the best international feature Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman, it’s safe to be cautiously confident in the execution.
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
The arrival of a new Paul Thomas Anderson project is usually something to get excited about, especially within a season that can often be without surprise, his films continually upending any expectations we might have.
The Academy fawns over him, with eight nominations to date (from Boogie Nights to Magnolia to There Will Be Blood), and with many considering his last, Phantom Thread, to be his best, expectations are high for what’s coming next.
As with most of his films, little is known, but the intriguingly titled, and soon-to-be ridiculed, Soggy Bottom will follow a high schooler who dreams of being an actor in the 70s with help from a director played by eight-time nominee Bradley Cooper. Anderson is an awards-magnet even without a film about film at play (something the Academy cannot help but fall for) so expect this one to feature in a number of categories.
There’s so much love for Denzel Washington within the Academy that even when the actor is having a widely agreed upon off-day, as with 2017’s under-appreciated legal drama Roman J Israel (note: Washington’s off-day is better than most when they’re on), he’s still able to secure a nomination.
In his career, the multi-hyphenate has won two Oscars and been nominated for seven others (he remains the most nominated black actor of all time) and this year offers him two major opportunities both in front of and behind the camera.
Firstly, he’s taking on the lead in The Tragedy of Macbeth, an intriguingly mysterious black-and-white adaptation also starring recent winner Frances McDormand and directed by her husband Joel Coen, the first time he’s worked without his brother Ethan.
Secondly, he’s directing Michael B Jordan in emotive fact-based drama A Journal for Jordan about a soldier in Baghdad leaving behind instructions on how his son should live a life without a father. While his work as a director has yet to reach even a shred of the support that his work as an actor has, this could be the film to change that.
It may have been one of the most predictable wins of the night but Chloe Zhao making Oscars history with her best director trophy for Nomadland was also arguably the most deserved. She became the first woman of color to win and only the second woman ever, following on from Kathryn Bigelow, and in a year when she was nominated alongside another female film-maker (also a first), it provided a welcome jolt to a category that sorely needed it.
Years prior, Jane Campion was helping to pave the way, becoming the first (and frustratingly still, only) female winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes and only the second nominee at the Oscars, both for The Piano. She’s not made a film since 2009’s criminally unrewarded Bright Star but is primed for a major return with an adaptation of Thomas Savage’s novel The Power of the Dog about two brothers at war after one of them gets married. The cast is promising — Benedict Cumberbatch, Thomasin McKenzie and real-life couple Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst — and with Netflix onboard, it’s likely to receive a hearty awards push later this year.
A winner back in 2010 for The Blind Side and a nominee four years later for Gravity, Sandra Bullock is the kind of well-loved movie star the Academy would probably celebrate even more if she decided to make more movies but the actor picks and chooses, in recent years more wisely, and often with a more commercial sensibility than they would like.
Her next project sounds like a more conventional awards play though one with promising heritage: an as-yet-untitled remake of Happy Valley creator Sally Wainwright’s miniseries Unforgiven, where Bullock will play a woman struggling to adjust to life after being released from prison. It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff on paper but with Oscar mainstay Viola Davis as Bullock’s co-star (whose one win and three nominations have allowed her to be more discerning with what she chooses to make) and with acclaimed German director Nora Fingscheidt, winner of multiple awards in her home country including at the Berlin film festival, at the helm, this could be a winner.
Now free from an increasingly thankless three-film arc in the retooled Star Wars franchise, Oscar Isaac has a far more challenging year ahead, his most publicized role being a return to sci-fi, albeit of a far stranger hue, in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.
But his less high-profile film this year could well be the game-changer, perhaps scoring him his first Oscar nomination. Isaac has skirted close to one before, most notably with his lead performance in Inside Llewyn Davis but buzz is slowly swirling around his work in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed follow-up The Card Counter. The bleak Ethan Hawke-led drama was a bracing return to form, scoring Schrader a best original screenplay nomination, and leading him to his biggest film in years, a gambling drama picked up by Focus Features and also starring Willem Dafoe and Tiffany Haddish. Reportedly, Venice film festival (a reliable launchpad for Oscar movies) is battling with those at Cannes for premiere rights.
As the sort of character actor who has spent years quietly but effectively working in the background, an Oscar for Richard Jenkins would also double as a lifetime achievement award. He’s already respected by the Academy — he scored a best actor nod for The Visitor and one for best supporting actor for The Shape of Water — and with two big films on the way, that might turn into something more substantial by this time next year.
His first shot comes from the last director to secure him a nomination, Guillermo del Toro, with his creepy psychological thriller Nightmare Alley, packed with Oscar favorites from Bradley Cooper to Cate Blanchett to Rooney Mara to Toni Collette (the entire cast has 24 noms and two wins in total), based on William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel. The more likely option might be his role in The Humans, released by A24 and based on Stephen Karam’s Tony-winning one-act play, starring alongside recent nominee Steven Yeun and Amy Schumer. While stage adaptations don’t often make their way into the best picture category (recent snubs for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and One Night in Miami were examples of this), it’s a surefire way to get attention for actors (this year saw four nominations and one winner from play-based movies).
The media reported this week on another government stimulus program to make the birth rate rise. Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the budget for the government’s programs would reach NT$85 billion (US$3.05 billion) by 2023, and said that the government’s monthly subsidy for child support would rise from NT$3,500 to NT$5,000. These measures are a well-meaning attempt to address Taiwan’s globally low fertility and birth rates, but they are rather like poking a heart attack victim with a stick in the hope of reviving him. The problems driving the low birth rates are well known: the lack and cost of
May 3 to May 9 The Japanese soldiers thought they had already subjugated the Atayal when they set out toward the mountains of today’s eastern Taoyuan on May 5, 1907. The two brigades, one from the north and one from the south, were tasked with pushing the colonial government’s frontier defense lines deeper into Aboriginal territory to gain access to valuable camphor. “The defense lines were used to protect the economic activities, mainly camphor production, on the [Japanese] side of the line,” writes Wu Cheng-hsien (吳政憲) in the paper, “The Principle and Utilization of the Mortars on the Frontier Defense Lines”
Chu Mu-kun (朱木崑) carefully inspects a large boulder hauled from further up the Daniuci OId Trail (打牛崎古道). “This might work,” he says, rotating and repositioning it against the slope until it fits snugly. It takes two hours to manually make three steps using simple tools on the ancient trail, which has been rendered inaccessible due to the collapse of a wooden elevated walkway. “You have to transport goods up here to repair this walkway, which looks jarring against its surroundings to begin with,” Chu says. “Hand-built trails using readily available materials are easier to maintain and are better for the environment.
The fatal shootings of eight people — six of them women of Asian descent — at Georgia massage businesses in March propelled Claire Xu into action. Within days, she helped organize a rally condemning violence against Asian Americans that drew support from a broad group of activists, elected officials and community members. But her parents objected. “‘We don’t want you to do this,’” Xu, 31, recalled their telling her afterward. “‘You can write about stuff, but don’t get your face out there.’” The shootings and other recent attacks on Asian Americans have exposed a generational divide in the community. Many young activists